Regret is one of those crappy feelings that we could really do without or at least, have it last for only a short period of time, right? Lucille Ball was quoted saying ‘I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done’. It’s similar to what people say before their pending death, especially when it involves people.
Why can’t we see clearly enough to avoid regret or at least quickly rectify it?! Instead, it’s usually something that creeps up on us over the years, when it’s too late to do anything about it.
It was in the mid-90s when I met Nadia, who started in the same bank that I worked in. She was barely out of high School and was starting her first job as a Bank Teller, while I was a mortgage officer and had just had my thirtieth birthday. Actually, some of the cake was still in the little staff kitchen fridge.
Our bank was in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton. Right on Lygon Street among all the fun Italian restaurants. Carlton was full of Italian and Greek immigrants, such as my parents but with a name like Mario Scaglietti, there wouldn’t have been any doubt of my heritage. Actually, they immigrated from the city of Turin in northern Italy, but not many northerners immigrated to Australia.
Nadia’s parents were from Palermo and she was a proud Sicilian, which I found that out a few weeks after she had started. I was in our break-room having a bite to eat and thinking about the last argument with my wife. She was quite bright but loved to argue and would look for any excuse to start an argument. The last time was yesterday, when I gave her a little plastic stop sign and said, ‘Here! Now you have something to argue with when the mood takes you!’ It was meant to be a joke, but we argued about it. Ironically…
“Oh, hi Mario! What are you having for lunch?”
She asked, with a big smile on her face. Nadia was such a bright and sunny girl and her smile lit up the room. We had spoken a few times and it was clear that she wasn’t a rocket scientist and was quite naive but when did that start becoming the measure of a person? I eventually responded.
“A peanut butter and Vegemite sandwich. You?”
“Lasagna! Aren’t you Italian?”
“Yeah but I can’t have good food like that every day for lunch. I’d end up the size of a house!”
Then we laughed. She actually found that funny and it was refreshing to be looked at without that glare of contempt. A few moments later, we talked about where our parents were from and I brought up the southern Italian versus northern Italian rivalry.
“Well that does it… We can never get married!”
But I saw something flash in her eyes and her smile changed for a just a fraction and to be honest, I thought about what I had just said as well.
The months went by and Nadia learned more about the role and settled in with our branch really well. She always brought a smile to everyone’s faces and the customers loved her! Especially the little old Italian customer that treated her like a lost granddaughter.
We had our lunch around the same time every day and talked about everything. Well… everything she knew about, which was movies, music and food mostly. I had mentioned that one of my favorite 80s bands, ‘Dead or Alive’ had released a revised version of ‘You Spin Me Right Round’ and I let her listen to it. I was excited for her to hear it but in the end, she looked at me, scrunched up her nose and said,
“It’s very 80s, isn’t it?”
That rhetorical question was like a bullet through the heart. Congratulation… I’m old. I thought I still looked good with my light brown hair, six-foot stature and blue eyes, while Nadia had that Mediterranean look. Dark brown curly hair, dark brown expressive eyes, not very tall but she was very pretty. Knowing Nadia had made me more cheerful at home and I think that my wife was getting annoyed that I wasn’t more depressed.
All the branch staff including the branch manager had noticed how well we got along and had apparently been gossiping about it behind our backs so one afternoon, Gavin the branch manager called me into his office and asked,
“Hey, Mario! How are the loan application coming along?”
“They’ve been steadily increasing since we advertised the new mortgage interest rates. We’re about ten percent up from the same time last year so, awesome!”
“That’s great to hear… Hey, uhm… I just wanted to ask you something that’s a little delicate and you can tell me to get lost, but I’m only concerned with how this could affect the bank.”
He asked with some trepidation, but I responded,
“What would you like to know?”
“Again… This is just about the bank and not about all the gossip out there but… is there anything going on between you and Nadia? You know she has a fiance, right?”
Actually, I didn’t know but I didn’t like it. Why didn’t she tell me? Then I thought, why did I care that she didn’t tell me?! Forget the huge age difference, I was married! Everyone in the branch and our customers loved Nadia but I started to worry that I did to… but in a different way.
“Absolutely nothing is going on, boss. She’s a kid and I’m married. We’re just friends.”
“Good… good… I appreciate you telling me.”
I thought about his question and asked,
“Will you also be asking Nadia as well?”
I asked with a little worry.
“Oh, no. That won’t be necessary.”
As it turned out, a few of the older female bank staff were chatting between themselves and wasn’t aware that Nadia was close by, picking up some papers that fell onto the floor. She heard one say to another,
“I wonder if the boss is talking to Mario about Nadia?”
Her colleague responded.
“I bet you he is. You know he’s married, and she’s engaged, don’t you?”
Nadia didn’t wait around to hear the rest and quietly crawled to another part of the office before standing up again. She never brought it up with me but the next time we got together for lunch; she was a little cool. I noticed she seemed a little off, so I asked,
“Are you OK, Nadia?”
“Huh? Oh yes… I was just thinking about one of my wedding plans.”
I realized that she had strategically mentioned it. Did she get some idea about my meeting with the boss? I knew that that I was drifting closer and closer to her but to what avail? Nothing was going to happen, and she may feel grossed out about it, so I changed tack.
“That’s right. You’re engaged… What’s his name?”
“Mario… I mean, Michael!”
“What’s he like?”
She then proceeded to tell me about her fiance, but I didn’t see that spark in her eyes. That spark that woman get when they are planning a wedding or a birth or a major birthday party.
“What sort of things do you like to do together?”
It was just a simple question to find out more about him, but I seemed to have gotten a curious response, as I watched her try to think of something.
“He… He works a lot, so we normally just hang out at his cafe, until he finishes. What sorts of things do you like to do with your wife?”
She added a little zing to her question which made me smile a little. We had spoken about so many things in the last six months or so and were always honest with each other, so I decided to be honest.
“My wife and I don’t like doing anything together anymore. She mainly goes out with her friends and likes being mean to me and if I try to say something, she would say ‘If you don’t like it, you can leave!’ I hear that a lot.”
Nadia instinctively reached out her hand and placed it on mine and said,
“I’m so sorry, Mario!”
“Thanks, Nadia. We’ve been married for six years and I don’t want to give up. I’ll fight to the end, or up to the point when she leaves me.”
That afternoon, I was allowed to leave early for a doctor’s appointment, rather than hang around to make sure that all the cash and deposits were accounted for. I was just about to pop into my car which was parked across the road, when something told me to look back and the large front bank window, where I saw Nadia looking at me. She had a look of longing on her face that I didn’t really understand at the time but the more I thought about it… the more I thought about it! I had to face the truth that I was falling in love with a nineteen-year-old. Falling hard and fast.
As it happened, fate stepped in and helped. Well, I thought it helped at the time… A few months ago, I had applied for the position of bank manager at the Habberfield branch near Sydney and was successful, but the move needed to be sped up as the manager that I was replacing, had to leave due to poor health. Unfortunately, things had developed quickly for him.
I only had a week left at my old branch and when Nadia found out, she became very quiet and withdrawn. Gone was the sunny demeanor and even the bank customers noted it but on my final day, she called in sick.
I was a little disappointed, as I wanted to say goodbye. I ‘had’ to say goodbye because if I were to work there for even another few months, I may have tried to do something vile and stupid. As far as what society thought was unacceptable. The boss called me into his office as he wanted a word with me.
“Mario, I just want to say congratulations and I know that you’ll do great! Is your wife excited about the move?”
“I don’t know. She left me when I told her. She used it as an excuse to call it quits, even though she encouraged me to apply for the job in the first place. I think she quit some time ago but was hoping that ‘I’ pulled the rip-chord first.”
I said in reply. We then did the gift and cake thing and I said goodbye to everyone, but I had left part of me there in that bank. A part of my heart.
It was now Twenty Twenty-two and I was walking through an Italian festival in Five Dock near Sydney. It was a bright, sunny but cool day and I was with my wife and children, looking at the delicious food and all the goods for sale, when someone called my name.
I turned around and found a pretty lady with what seemed to be her husband and children. She looked to be in her late thirties or early forties, and she looked so familiar but couldn’t think who it was!
“It’s me! Nadia!”
“Nadia! How… How are you! How long has it been?”
I asked a little sheepishly.
“I don’t know, and I don’t want to count the years!”
She said and we both laughed. We then introduced our spouses and children to each other, and she explained that she and her family moved to Sydney about five years ago. We briefly caught up with what we were up to and promised that we’d befriend each other on Facebook and Instagram.
It was almost a month later when I started to follow her on Insta’ and looked through all the posts and pictures on her profile. Some were from the years that we first knew each other, then her wedding and so on. The pictures brought it all back to me, and I realized that I had loved her for all this time but the things that prevented me from doing anything about it back then, no longer existed. My wife wasn’t that much older than her!
That could have been me in those photos with her… Those could have been our children… I was happy with my life but that nagging question of ‘what if’ started to bug me. Then that feeling of regret. The regret of not following my heart…
I was almost certain that she loved me back then, but it doesn’t matter anymore. We had taken different roads and there was no way of going back. Maybe my destiny was simply to love her and that’s all, but I wonder if she still loved me.
The girl from my past will always be in my heart and there she will remain… with no regrets.